AUGUSTA, Ga. — So, you say you don’t believe in the gods that reside high up in the tall pine trees that surround, overlook and protect Augusta National?
You say you don’t believe there are mystical forces at work on the sacred grounds where green jackets are awarded and hearts are broken?
You say you don’t believe in karma, that it can sometimes be a bitch?
Well then, have a look at Bryson DeChambeau’s past two days at the Masters.
You know what Augusta National has been doing to DeChambeau, the favorite to win entering the week and the biggest story in golf?
How else do you explain DeChambeau’s nightmarish two days after arriving to Augusta so cocksure about his game and the possibility that he might dismantle Alister MacKenzie’s crown jewel with his newfound bulk, length and technological advances?
DeChambeau has spoken overtly about the fact he believes he’s beating the system with all the work he’s done to his body, that it was going to be up to everyone else in the game to catch up to him.
Augusta National has shown him, in the past two days, that he won’t be beating the system on its watch.
Let’s start with Friday’s second round, which DeChambeau began with a par on the difficult first hole and then a birdie on the par-5 second, on which his tee shot went 380 yards, leaving him 176 into the green.
He was 1-under through two holes and 3-under for the tournament. All was going according to plan — hang tough on the difficult holes and eat the par-5s for lunch.
Then No. 3 happened.
You might recall No. 3 at Augusta, tamely named “Flowering Peach.’’ It’s the shortest par-4 on the golf course at 350 yards and DeChambeau, before the tournament began, cavalierly spoke about driving it with ease.
On Friday, DeChambeau did something that, in 26 years covering the Masters, I’ve never seen: He lost a ball in the rough.
He hit driver high into the air toward the third green, the ball landed in the left rough … and no one could find it.
How ironic that DeChambeau won the U.S. Open in September at Winged Foot, where the rough was ankle deep and the fairways narrow, never coming close to losing a ball that week … and he loses one Friday on the shortest par-4 on the course.
The scene was surreal. We’re used to seeing search parties consisting of caddies, players, volunteer marshals, spectators and sometimes even media searching for a player’s lost ball in U.S. Open and British Opens.
Not at the Masters.
But there was DeChambeau, after the maximum time allowed for a ball search was up, taking that dreaded perp ride on a cart back to the tee to reload.
“So, you’re saying if can’t find it … it’s a lost ball?” DeChambeau was heard asking officials through the television microphones.
DeChambeau was understandably agitated. Marshals are on the grounds for the purpose of spotting errant shots in the rough or woods. But with the COVID-19 restrictions, there do not appear to be as many marshals working this Masters and, of course, there are no patrons allowed. So that reduced the amount of eyes on DeChambeau’s tee shot.
The debacle ended in a triple bogey 7 for DeChambeau, who in Thursday’s opening round took a shocking double-bogey 7 on the par-5 13th hole, another hole he expected to feast on this week, bragging that he was hitting wedge into that green in the practice rounds.
Let’s all agree that 7 is not a lucky number for DeChambeau — certainly not on Friday the 13th.
DeChambeau stands at 1-over and is on the wrong side of the cutline, which was projected at even par at day’s end Friday, but could move to 1-under as the second round is completed Saturday morning with 49 players at even or better and the cut consisting of the low 50 and ties.
DeChambeau, who will resume his second round on the par-5 13th Saturday morning, has six holes to finish in his second round. If the cut does move to 1-under, he must play those final six holes in 2-under to stay in the tournament.
Before the tournament, DeChambeau boldly described Augusta National, which is par-72, as “a par 67 for me because I can reach all the par-5s in two, no problem.’’
“That’s what I feel like par is for me,’’ he said.
The gods of Augusta National were listening. They obviously didn’t like what they heard. Karma can, indeed, be fickle.